Learning ABA Archives | Cultivate Behavioral Health & Education - ABA Therapy

Let’s Look at the Data!

Using an Evidence-Based Approach to Make Progress

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based approach for creating significant positive behavior change. In our daily work as clinicians (BCBAs, RBTs, and BTs) we collect data on a variety of behaviors. We may carry clipboards with pen and paper, timers, utilize one of the many data collection apps, or even iPads to do so.

As clinicians, we collect data on behaviors we want to improve (skill acquisition) such as a child’s conversations with peers, how well they can dress themselves, to even measuring a child’s performance on receptive skills such as following instructions. We also collect it on behaviors that may impede a child’s ability to learn or work in a less restrictive environment, such as aggression, elopement, or even property destruction. Further, data may be collected on numerous dimensions of behavior such as frequency, duration, latency to respond, and specific steps in a chain of behaviors such as hand washing.

How is Data Useful for ABA Therapy?

Data collection begins from the moment we learn that we will be working with a child, we review their developmental history, treatment history, progress, and parent concerns. The first time we meet a child during their initial assessment we measure their skill repertoire by utilizing any one of several skills assessments (e.g., VB-MAPP, PEAK, AFLS, etc.) while also collecting baseline data on behaviors we need to increase or decrease. All of this information drives what individualized goals we develop to help a client reach their potential in conjunction with behavior data and parent input.

Data collection must be on-going, accurate, and analyzed regularly if it is to be useful. We also use data to help determine if the interventions we have put in place are effective or if we need to modify our intervention (data-based decisions). It is also important to remember that our credentialing Board, the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB), includes a section on the use of and collection of data, in the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts (2014).

Numerous research articles have focused on the accuracy and reliability of data collection and training of staff to collect data, many of which can be found in our field’s flagship journal, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, among other publications.

However, with all of this in mind, as we as professionals are collecting data, we keep in mind that we are working with and supporting an individual who is more than numbers and that the decisions that we make will have a powerful impact on not only their daily lives but their future outcomes.

Learn More

Learn more about what you can expect with your child’s ABA program, visit our webpage “What is ABA?”

Ready to get started? Fill out an intake form to start the conversation.

Sensory Processing Crafts

What is Sensory Input?

A sensory/automatically maintained behavior is a behavior we engage in that is not socially mediated. We do it because it simply feels good to us. Whether the sensory-seeking behavior is common or uncommon, we all engage in some form of it. This can be listening to music, scratching an itch, biting nails, fidgeting, or squeezing a pillow. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it!

Creating a sensory focused environment

You can incorporate different sensory activities into your child’s day-to-day life with ease and often with common things found around the house. Just think of fun activities to stimulate the senses! Set up sensory bins filled with rice and beans for a cool tactile activity or make a sparkle bottle for a mesmerizing visual experience. You can even cuddle up with a weighted blanket while watching one of our story-time videos with your child.

Creating new sensory opportunities for your child can even help them expand into new experiences. With the help of your BCBA, you can help your picky eater try new foods, your home-body tolerate being in a busy community setting, or even help your child play with a new toy!

If you are interested in learning more about ABA therapy, please visit our What is ABA Therapy page. You’ll also find articles written by our BCBA and BT staff in our blog series, Learning ABA.

We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite activities you can make with supplies from around your house.

DIY Sparkle Bottle

Sensory bottles are an inexpensive DIY-craft activity you can make with items you probably already have laying around your house! These bottles are an amazing tool to calm an anxious mind, for sensory processing, for learning and exploring. You’ll need an old plastic bottle, glitter, beads and some food coloring. Follow along with our video to make one of your own.

Once your bottle is complete, get shaking and enjoy the show! Follow along with our one-minute tutorial video here.

Homemade Sensory Slime


  • A Bottle Washable Non-Toxic Glue
  • 1 Tsp Borax
  • 1 Cup water
  • Spatula
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Food Coloring


  1. Pour 1-2 bottles of Glue into a mixing bowl
  2. Make “Activator” solution by mixing 1 tsp Borax and 1 cup of water in a separate measuring cup
  3. Add food coloring to the glue for a fun color!
  4. Slowly add in a little bit of Activator at a time while stirring until the glue is no longer sticky and becomes “slime.”
  5. Remove slime from the bowl and knead together with your hands!

*Optional Step: You can knead in glitter, confetti, jelly foam cubes, colored beads, or other fun “mix-ins” to add texture and creativity to your slime.

Store in a resealable bag when not in use. Enjoy playing with your homemade slime!!

Sensory Snow

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow! Grab the kids and get ready to have SNOW much fun. Check out the link below for 6 easy ways to make sensory table snow! Explore a variety of materials and textures from sparkling sand, cotton balls, shaving cream and corn starch, soap, and potato flakes.  

Quick and easy indoor fun for the entire family!  

Get started here. https://www.prekinders.com/snow-sensory-table/  

Looking for more crafts and activities? Visit our Pinterest page! www.pinterest.com/cultivatebhe/    

More Resources from Cultivate

Cultivate offers many free resources to the community, including parent trainings and support groups, guidance on insurance and diagnostic processes, and referrals to other community services through our Community Outreach team. Many of these resources are available right here on our website or through contacting your local Community Outreach Coordinator.

Pivotal Behaviors

If you’re a practitioner, you should read (or reread) the post (Behavioral Cusps) on 4.1.16. It’ll help you understand the differences. If you’re a parent, you likely only have time to read one thing at the moment, so I’ll make Pivotal Behaviors as clear and as entertaining as I can. To review very briefly the prior post, a behavioral cusp is essentially a behavior change that has consequences beyond the change itself (as defined by Rosales-Ruiz & Baer).

In this post, we will introduce pivotal behaviors – you should continue to read this post because pivotal behaviors matter. They’ll help your kiddos significantly given that they will help you emphasize teaching your children the most important skills. I’ll define a pivotal behavior as one that, when learned, causes other changes in different behavior WITHOUT additional teaching. GREAT for both the learner and teacher right? One example of a pivotal behavior is learning observationally from peers. I’m FANATICAL over observational learning because it’s the type of thing that you teach if you would rather not teach everything. What do I mean? I’ll explain more. 

Today, I’ll assume the responsibility for explaining what learning observationally looks like at home. Observational learning occurs when someone imitates behavior or otherwise learns from others by observing. This has become important to us as parents and practitioners because while many of us seem to pick up observational skills “naturally,” we do have kiddos that, at times, are not as motivated to learn from those around them. These children have needed extra support and reinforcement for looking at their peers and imitating at the right times. In other words, observational learning is not always natural and may require direct instruction.

Our Services

At Cultivate, we work on the skills that matter most in your child’s life. We focus on treatment goals that will create socially significant change for your family and equip your child for success as they grow. Learn more about our social group opportunities and other services.

Behavioral Cusps

Rosales-Ruiz & Baer define behavioral cusps as a behavior change that has consequences beyond the change itself. Once behavioral cusps are taught, the individual can now access new opportunities and new experiences that were not previously available. Clinicians typically want their learners to develop skills that will allow for new found access to meaningful opportunities (parents clearly want this as well). Let’s use language development as an example. Many children do not need to use their own language because their needs are anticipated and automatically met. However, verbally communicating with your child and immersing them in language, opens up the door for them to become active participants in their environment. These language skills are behavioral cusps. 

Another everyday example is teaching older generations how to use technology. We all know this can be an incredibly daunting task. But, picture Grandma. You love Grandma, but cannot visit or call as often as you would like. But if you teach Grandma how to use an iPhone and social media, she now has an ongoing subscription to her children, grandchildren, and even friends she may have lost touch with. Teaching her to refrain from saying embarrassing things on social media, however, is a different story.

Behavioral Cusp Strategies

Below are a handful of strategies/questions from Bosch and Fuqua (2001) to get started on selecting potential skills to target. 

  • Does the response facilitate subsequent learning by being either a prerequisite or a component of more responses?
  • Will the response have the potential to contact new reinforcers?
  • Will the response give the learner access to new environments?
  • Does the response benefit others?
  • Does the response have social validity

Love What You Do

Krystel Rae Davis wrote this insightful article. Our team of BCBAs and RBTs are engaged and motivated to help create a culture of care, advocacy, and excellence to ensure long term sustainable growth. Check out our career opportunities and training programs.

3 Questions to ask yourself when evaluating social validity in treatment outcomes

Do you ever wonder if what you’re doing matters much? If you’re an RBT or a BCBA, you likely know how important it is to ensure that your programming is relevant and has social validity, especially when you’re serving kiddos with autism who really need strategic plans in place. According to Montrose Wolf (1978), social validity in behavior analysis can be evaluated in 3 ways:

  • The social significance of the target behavior
  • The appropriateness of the procedures
  • The social importance of the results

Social Validity Action Questions

As you consider this, let’s take the recommendations and phrase them into action questions that we can ask ourselves. 

  1. Does this behavior matter? In all honesty, I’ve SEEN so much irrelevant work as a BCBA. Like working on preschool matching cards with a teen that has no independent living skills, or drilling 3 year-olds on reading. 
  2. Are my procedures appropriate, and socially acceptable? I like to look at it like this, is a parent readily able to implement the procedure? If not, you’ll likely not have much social validity. That’s where the BEST BCBAs thrive. They know how to package strategies in such a way that parents and practitioners are readily able to implement. 
  3. If I achieve the outcome or the result, did it matter? Did it make ones’ quality of life better? Take my example above. Is the teen’s life better because she knows how to match preschool matching cards? Likely no. Could her life be better if we taught her how to safely cross the street to get to her FAV place, Target? Yes! Focus on what matters most and leave the rest aside. 

Serving kiddos with autism means that we have to maximize every opportunity. Wandering in the wilderness of irrelevant skills is not advisable. Have a plan. Know why that plan is in place. Question what you’re working on. It’s okay to be unsettled about it. You should be. We want you to know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how that brings value to your clients and their parents. Socially valid outcomes are not accidental. They’re planned, by strategic clinicians, that know what they’re doing.

Love What You Do

Interested in joining our team? Visit our career page to learn about our open positions.

Generalizations in ABA Therapy: Why is it so important?

Generalizations in ABA Therapy is an area that quality practitioners need to emphasize. Like we’ve said since the beginning, this is particularly challenging when a behavior analyst is only providing services in the center. At Cultivate, we provide services where it matters most. We utilize a hybrid model, so we work at homes, schools, our centers, and anywhere else we can bring about meaningful behavior change. The subject in this blog post is generalization and we’ll explore what that means on a very practical level.

What are Generalizations in ABA Therapy?

Generalization, most simply and most practically, is the ability to utilize new skills in other settings and with other people. There are other elements with generalizations in ABA Therapy, but we’ll only be emphasizing generalization across settings and people. In order to get deeper while still being very practical, let me provide an example.

We had a kiddo that we served in our center in California, who HATED wearing his karate uniform. I say hated, but really what I mean is that he would engage in meltdown-like behavior when mom pulled out the karate uniform. She voiced her concerns about the routine, and we wanted to jump in and help. We asked mom to send the uniform to the center during our Saturday social group.

During the session, we practiced multiple times, putting the uniform on. We reinforced him with his most powerful reinforcers, yet we were still perplexed as to why we were not experiencing the same meltdown behavior. Why is that?

Cultivate’s Holistic Approach

There’s so many variables at work, that it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reasons, but I hypothesize that it’s because we were more reinforcing. That’s not to knock mom, but when you’re in a session and your only role is to crush it as a practitioner, then it’s a lot easier. You’re likely wondering what we did.

We did not send him on his way, and say to mom “good luck!” Had we done that, I imagine he would have made no real progress putting on the uniform with mom. BTW, soap box, this is why these center-based only operations are missing the mark so much. So many skills get overlooked because you can only experience so much in a center. It’s not real life, which is an issue, but I digress.

When mom arrived, we coached her on what we wanted to accomplish in order to generalize this new skill, which was putting on the uniform (without melting down of course). We stayed right there, and we gave the direction to put on the uniform, but it was mom that actually assisted, and not us. Then, we had mom reinforce, with equally powerful reinforcement.

To everyone’s surprise, instead of stopping there, we said that we wanted to do it again. Mom knew what was happening, and was completely on-board with practicing this multiple times, with reduced coaching and her leading the charge. So the next trial, mom provided the direction and put on the uniform and reinforced her son, but we were still there. We did the same thing again, but this time our staff stepped back. On the third run through, and we stepped back even more. We did it a last time, but this time we were outta the room completely.

The Results of Generalizations in ABA Therapy

Mom did it! She was thrilled with how the strategy worked. I’m also excited to say that it never was an issue again, and in fact, he even started doing better at home with putting on other clothes that previously evoked meltdown behavior. How did all this happen? Magic? Not at all, it was simply a generalization strategy done right.

It was the ABA provider saying that we’re not gonna settle with changing behavior in the center, while behavior change is still needed at home. It was the mom that decided that it did not have to be this way, so she worked up the energy to tackle the issue alongside her BCBAs and BTs. That’s how this happened, not magic, just science, well practiced.

This is why I love ABA. It changes lives by changing behavior, through making subtle changes and manipulating certain variables, that lead to significant change and improvement in the daily routines that parents endure (I use the word endure because certain routines are hard, especially when our kiddos struggle).

Find a Clinic Near You

What can you do after reading this post, to make generalization a priority? If you’re not a Cultivate client, become one (assuming you live in the areas that we serve)!

If you are, talk to your BCBA about the skills that need more generalizing. You know your kiddo better than anyone, and you’re with them more than anyone. Communicate, a lot, knowing that we love you and want to serve you exceedingly well. It could be little things, or big things, but the idea is that we’re FOCUSED and making progress in one significant direction.